The Passage of the Health Care Bill (3/22/10)

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The Passage of the Health Care Bill (3/22/10)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:59 pm

First, a personal aside. I have woken up several times recently with songs running persistently through my brain, drowning out anything that passes for actual thought. I'm sure this happens to most or even all of us sometimes, and one of those songs probably pollutes more of our heads recently than any other. Of course, I'm talking about that ridiculous song from the ubiquitous McDonald's ad, "Give Me Back That Filet o' Fish..." It drives me NUTS! Sometimes I have to blast it away by applying large dosages of other catchy tunes, like the similarly-themed "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s.

But this morning it was a different tune. Like most people with at least two brain cells to rub together, I'm a long-time fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Eric Idle and that occasional Python and Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band refugee Neil Innes wrote a lot of really spectacularly catchy tunes, including "When Does a Dream Begin," "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and "The Galaxy Song," but the one I woke up with it banging around in my head this morning was one the blame for whose authorship I cannot reliably attribute, the somewhat more obscure "Sgt. Duckie's Song," precisely as sung painfully off-key by Terry Jones. Just to be cruel, I shall permit you to experience it for yourself here: . Sorry about that, cats & kittens.

But enough about me. We passed health care last night.

I hesitate to call it health care "reform" like everybody else is doing. That is far too grand a title for something that in fact is not much more than a tweaking of health insurance regulation, a long-overdue effort to prevent health insurance corporations from egregiously abusing their customers in a way that should have been illegal from the start, such things as terminating coverage once a policyholder actually gets sick by inserting "Gotchas" in their application forms and exploiting their understandably erroneous entries on those forms, or denying coverage for an ever-widening set of characteristics that they describe as "pre-existing conditions." It also permits parents to continue to include their offspring as dependents on their policies for an additional five years. That's good as far as it goes, but it hardly crosses any threshold that might qualify it as actual "reform."

In return, the bill contains a requirement that very nearly all of us become customers of the very corporations that were responsible for such abuses whether we want to or not. Furthermore, it still permits those corporations to set rates largely arbitrarily with few restrictions, and places no limits on such matters as their corporate profits or their executive compensation. I have a big problem with this and foresee some significant difficulties ahead because of it. It is quite possible, and I do not see any aspect of this bill that would prevent it from occurring, that the insurance corporations will see it as their road to salvation, and as their path to dismantling even this mild change in their regulation, to raise rates rapidly to a truly heinous extent and blame the legislation for the ensuing problems it causes to American industry and in people's lives.

This would not have been a risk under any kind of true reform. A single-payer program like Medicare for All would not only have completely eliminated any notion that the insurance companies could torpedo anything ever again, it would have been able to bring down the cost of the actual provision of health care to a manageable level in America. Lacking that, a public option might have served to mitigate this risk, but that ain't happenin', evidently, although it could conceivably still be passed via reconciliation, despite its not yet being included at this time in the reconciliation measure. This, however, though not entirely impossible, is highly unlikely. The funny thing is that there are reliable claims that there would have been 51 Senate votes for it had it been included -- sufficient to pass a reconciliation measure.

Another particularly weird aspect of this bill is that its most salutary measures do not take full effect until 2014. I don't know about you but I am unclear on both the purpose and the necessity for this delay. The delay certainly does not serve Democratic political interests. Front-loading pain is seldom politic.

Still, this is an improvement over the way things were, albeit only a minor improvement. I would have preferred actual reform, but maybe that's just me.

What is clear is that this is a MAJOR victory for Democrats, both the President and the House and Senate Democrats, and a MAJOR defeat for Boehner, McConnell, and many of the Republican leadership and punditry. They conducted a scorched-earth tactic to try to defeat this on behalf of their insurance industry overlords and they failed miserably. They sacrificed truth, honor and reason on the altar of greed and, in doing so, stirred up a particularly dangerous "TEA Party Movement" that they cannot control. Furthermore, they showed their insurance industry patrons that they are too weak and too stupid to effectively do their bidding, and in their defeat saw what will become a far more popular health care program in its operation than it could ever have been in its anticipation. Their opposition will come back to haunt them, just as their strident opposition to Social Security nearly destroyed their party in the '30s.

Because this bill was left for dead just a couple months ago, still within the short memory of the public, the victory is that much sweeter. I remember the ridiculous right-wing "Politico" making repeated and consistent observations like, "Face the fact: Health care is dead," and having this echoed throughout the mainstream media almost like a mantra. But due to Barack Obama's intelligence, charisma and determination, and really nothing else, it is now the law of the land. Barack Obama just did the Lazarus trick and it may prove to be as pivotal for his administration, and to Democratic electoral hopes in the upcoming congressional elections, as standing up against Gingrich & Co. on behalf of Medicare did for Bill Clinton in 1995. This is a BIG win.

Now a personal note (of a somewhat more serious nature than the one with which I started this post). I have no health insurance at present. It is highly likely that I may have contracted a fairly common condition in recent years that the insurance industry would deem "pre-existing" and would use to deny me coverage. Because I as a layman merely SUSPECT that I have contracted this condition (which starts with the letter "D"), were I to apply for health insurance I could answer their questions honestly without costing me coverage -- I don't officially have it until somebody professional diagnoses it. But it has left me in a position where I dare not go to a doctor who might pick up on it and provide me with such a diagnosis, so I must endure whatever the lapses in my own health and safety that life might toss my way without the help of medical care until I can be sure that it will not go on my record.

I took a rather nasty beer-related fall on St. Patrick's Day, just doin' what people of Irish descent are supposed to do to celebrate the banishment of snakes from Ireland (or whatever other excuse might be called for to justify such behavior). I broke a rib and my nose and took a very nasty gash on my forehead between the eyes that every time I look in the mirror will remind me of that day for the rest of my life. I'd have liked to have seen a doctor for it, but in the uncertainty preceding the passage of last night's bill I dared not go.

Now I can go to the doctor without fear that I'll never be able to get insurance. I guess that alone is a big plus for me. Something tells me it's a much bigger plus for a lot of other folks, and I don't suppose that even the most competent medical care would have stopped it from hurting so much when I laugh, as when I envision the scene that accompanied that Monty Python song that still runs through my wounded head.

It's just a shame that we couldn't do it right. Oh well. Half a loaf...

One last point. Last night the Republicans, in so incessantly and repeatedly moving for unanimous consent to "revise and extend" their remarks on the House floor and interrupting the "debate" to do so, all read from a script that referred to the health care bill as "flawed." This is a common Republican rhetorical tactic, to explain their opposition to something that we need to pass, like that bill or a global warming treaty or whatnot, by pointing out that the measure is "flawed."

I am waiting for an interviewer to ask one of them when he or she has ever had a chance to vote in support of a PERFECT bill.
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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Ferguson Foont
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